On today’s podcast, Greg talks about an article discussing how people who object to radical changes in our society, like transgender bathrooms, are being bullied to abandon their reasonable sensibilities and objections. Tevin Wax has some good questions about this radical new theory of sexuality. If you’re challenged about your views, it might be helpful to have some of these fair questions in mind to try to engage in a respectful and useful discussion about these highly charged issues. The questions also constitute some very good reasons why we shouldn’t accept the new theory on human sexuality.
On today’s podcast, Greg received a question about the detailed vision of a temple at the end of Ezekiel (chapters 40–48)—specifically, about the section on offerings introduced by verse 45:22: “On that day the prince shall provide for himself and all the people of the land a bull for a sin offering.”
If this is a reference to the Messiah at the end of the age, then clearly this is a problem for Christianity because Jesus, “having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). He won’t be offering any sacrifices in a future temple.
This is something I’ve looked into in the past, and interpretations of the chapters describing Ezekiel’s vision vary. Here’s a brief summary of a few different positions from the ESV Study Bible:
With regard to the meaning of this passage as a whole:
(1) Some interpreters understand this vision as a prophecy that will be fulfilled literally, with a rebuilt temple and Israel dwelling in the land according to its tribes—a future millennial kingdom on the earth…. Many who hold this position believe that literal animal sacrifices will be offered, but that in the future millennial kingdom they will function as reminders of the complete and sufficient death of Christ, a function different from what they had in the OT.
(2) Other interpreters see this vision of a new temple and a renewal of the land of Israel as an extended, detailed metaphor predicting the presence of God among his people in the new covenant age (that is, his presence in the church).
(3) Another view is that the vision predicts God’s presence among his people in the new heavens and new earth (cf. Isa. 66:17; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1), not as physical details that will be literally fulfilled but as symbolic indications of the great blessings of that future age. In this interpretation, the details about worship and sacrifices are symbols of the centrality of worship of God: the temple represents the orderliness and beauty of God’s heavenly dwelling place; the priests and their sacrifices represent the service and worship of all God’s people; the division of the land represents the allocation of places to live for all God’s people; and the river represents the outward flow of God’s blessings to his people forever.
(4) Finally, it is possible that there are both literal and symbolic elements in this vision, and that, as with the visions in Ezekiel 1, this vision describes future realities that cannot be fully expressed in terms of Ezekiel’s present realities. Almost all interpreters agree that Ezekiel 40–48 is one of the most difficult passages in the entire Bible.
It’s also possible the answer is simply this: Ezekiel’s vision conveys instructions, not predictions. There’s a clear break at the beginning of the vision in chapter 40 from the prophecy in chapter 39, and from this point forward, the chapters read like commands (“You shall do this,” “These are the statutes,” etc.), with warnings for the people to repent and follow these commands (e.g., 45:9), rather than descriptions of the future. Though the instructions for the building and running of a temple are given in a vision, the genre of the passage is more like the tabernacle instructions in Exodus than it is like the prophecy in the previous chapter. There’s no unconditional announcement in chapters 40–48 that this is what will take place. In fact, there’s a conditional element introduced in 43:9–11:
Now let them put away their harlotry and the corpses of their harlotry and the corpses of their kings far from Me; and I will dwell among them forever.
As for you, son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the plan. If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws. And write it in their sight, so that they may observe its whole design and all its statutes and do them.
“If they are ashamed…let them….” “Now let them…and I will....” “Write it…so that they may observe its whole design.” In other words, these last few chapters are instructions God was calling the people to follow, conditional instructions with conditional results. They did not repent and follow them, and so the temple was not built and God did not dwell among them in this way. Instead, Christ came with His unconditional salvation, and the Lord filled His new temple (His people) with His Spirit in a way that far surpassed the way in which Israel failed.
They failed because, as fallen human beings, we’re not morally capable of the kind of obedience required to deserve the dwelling of God among us. This is what God taught all humankind through Israel’s history. We needed to understand that even when given perfect knowledge of all of God’s commands, we could never save ourselves through the Law because the problem lies in us. His Law doesn't have the power to change our morally broken souls, and no merely human prince could perfect us with his sacrifices. We have an undeniable, absolute need for God’s merciful, undeserved redemption and regeneration. The purpose of Israel and all its history was to prepare the world for Jesus and the Gospel.
For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Galatians 3:21–22)
For now, in terms of Israel, we remain in Romans 11:25–32:
[A] partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in…. For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
And how beautiful that mercy will be!
Now if [Israel’s] transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! … For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11:15)
Now, in regards to Isaiah 65, this chapter speaks about future Prophecies and Promises that GOD Almighty is making for the future of the people of Israel. So, this is not a book that is just giving mere commands. It is rather speaking about the future and the End of Times. Interestingly, we read the following from this chapter (click on the link to read the entire short chapter):
"3They keep making me angry by sneering at me, while offering sacrifices to idols in gardens and burning incense to them on bricks. 4They spend their nights hiding in burial caves; they eat the meat of pigs, cooked in sauces made of stuff unfit to eat. 5And then they say to others, "Don't come near us! We're dedicated to God." Such people are like smoke, irritating my nose all day." (CEV Bible, Isaiah 65:3-5)
Here we see that the pork eaters are so detested by GOD Almighty that He likened them to smoke irritating His Nose all day. This is a very powerful statement regarding eating pork and how detestable it is to GOD Almighty in the Bible.…
So what is it? Is pig's meat allowed today or not?
How would you respond to this argument? Does our eating pork prove we aren’t following the true God? Tell us what you think, and then we’ll hear Alan’s answer on Thursday.
Continuing on the theme of yesterday’s post: Because our culture values equality, and because we (not believing in intrinsic human value anymore) think sameness is necessary for equality of value to exist, this also explains the anger many have towards the existence of gender roles in marriage. Why despise patriarchy? Because it entails one member of the marriage having a “higher” position than the other. If our value is determined by roles, and one role is deemed more valuable than the other, then the roles by nature are an expression of inequality. Equality can never exist as long as there are differences between “husband” and “wife.”
But it’s hard to deny the existence of natural gender roles when biological realities force those roles upon us. A woman gives birth, a woman nurses the child, a woman is naturally separated from the role of provider for a time. So in order to keep an equality of roles (since it’s believed equality of value depends on it), it’s argued that we need free contraception, abortion, child care, and whatever else can protect women from their unique womanly ability to have and raise children. They must be able to live their entire lives as men. That’s how equal value must be maintained in a society where intrinsic human value is rejected.
Now we come to the next step in this reasoning. If the highest ideal for marriage is sameness between the partners (not to mention barrenness), then it naturally follows that the new ideal is same-sex marriage. And in fact, I have seen articles that imply this. For example, this article from Slate argues that, unlike polygamy (which the writer considers to be a step backwards from the ideal due to increased inequality), same-sex marriage “builds upon and further strengthens the norm of spousal equality within marriage.” It does more than just “further strengthen” sameness. If sameness is the goal for marriage partners, then same-sex marriage embodies an ultimate sameness that opposite-sex marriage can never achieve, even though it strives for it.
As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has observed, marriage as it now exists is egalitarian: The spouses have become equal under law…. This is indeed a revolution in the law, and a recent one at that: Full spousal equality was achieved as a matter of law only in the 1970s. As a matter of fact, it is still a work in progress.
Marriage is only appealing to same-sex couples because marriage under our Constitution is now equal. As a union of equal spouses, marriage is very well suited to same-sex couples. And because the older pattern of gender-differentiated roles makes a lot less sense in same-sex marriages, the extension of marriage to gays entrenches its egalitarian aspect.
In other words, from a constitutional perspective that takes as its lodestar an ordered system of equal liberty, same-sex marriage is a very important but not a radical reform that builds on, extends, and further entrenches marriage’s egalitarian and constitutional character. This is why women’s groups have so long championed the cause of same-sex marriage. It is why patriarchal societies despise gay rights and know nothing of same-sex marriage.
It “further entrenches marriage’s egalitarian character” because it takes it a step further along the “historical trajectory” the writer claims marriage is on. It embodies what this Slate writer believes all marriages should aspire to—sameness. If sameness (what they call “equality”) is the ideal, then same-sex marriage is the ideal of the ideal. Gone are the differences between the sexes that might disturb that “equality,” the differences that result in fertility and its unequal demands on the two sexes, the differences that reality keeps forcing into our lives, disrupting our dream of sameness.
At the root of much of the craziness in our society today is the desire for equality. We have a deep human thirst for equality of value, but having removed its foundation, we have no way to ground it. Since we have denied the reality of God as the grounding of human equality, we must now deny many more obvious realities in order to enforce a cheaper equality of sameness.
This is the result of a secular worldview. Only within a worldview where God created us in His image can we affirm and celebrate both equal value and the diversity of reality.
Alastair Roberts has a really interesting article at Mere Orthodoxy titled “Why We Should Jettison the ‘Strong Female Character,’” in which he argues that the current trend of strong female characters in pop culture, while attempting to be feminist, actually degrade the value of women and their femininity because they subtly teach a woman’s value lies in how well she succeeds in acting like a man.
The article is quite long, so here are a few of the relevant quotes to give you an overview (and hopefully inspire you to read the rest):
The female action heroines may have many relatable personal traits, interests, and concerns for the typical girl or woman—as I have already noted, few of these heroines are merely clumsy gender-switches of male characters. However, all too often, their prominence and the recognition of their importance in the narrative rests almost entirely upon the fact that they have in some crucial respects followed a typically male path, or that they exhibit relatively male tendencies, interests, and aptitudes in key areas. Their claim to strength and the stature of their personhood lies, less in the confident development and pursuit of determined and unapologetically womanly character—with the considerable scope that provides for resisting flat stereotypes—than in their capacity to prove themselves on men’s terms, as fighters who can excel at typical male interests and activities.
Were such characters rare or occasional exceptions, it could fairly be claimed that they serve to resist the closure of certain possibilities to women—a worthwhile end indeed. However, when they increasingly represent a norm among the most prominent female characters in popular culture, they cease to be a message of empowerment and become something closer to an indictment upon the natural strengths and tendencies of women relative to men as a sex….
The recurring characterization problems with such Strong Female Characters arise in no small measure from the struggle to show that men and women are interchangeable and can compete and cooperate with each other on the same terms. As I have already noted, this falsehood serves no one. It sets women up for frustration and failure as they have to justify their agency on men’s terms and it produces an embarrassment about male strengths that should be celebrated rather than stifled. It reflects a drive towards intense gender integration and de-differentiation in the wider world….
The fact that women’s stature as full agents is so consistently treated as contingent upon such things as their physical strength and combat skills, or upon the exaggerated weakness or their one-upping of the men that surround them, is a sign that, even though men may be increasingly stifled within it, women are operating in a realm that plays by men’s rules. The possibility of a world in which women are the weaker sex, yet can still attain to the stature and dignity of full agents and persons—the true counterparts and equals of men—seems to be, for the most part, beyond people’s imaginative grasp….
The problem also lies with the lack of female characters that teach men to respect women as women, not only to the extent that they can play to male strengths. Without denying that some women can and do effectively play to male strengths, they should not have to do so in order to be valued as full agents.
Roberts then explains how the Bible succeeds in showing the value of women in their full, unapologetic femininity. I encourage you to read what he says.
I’ve been thinking for a while about our culture’s push to make everyone and everything the same. We have confused equality with sameness—believing that equality can only result from sameness (and in this case, everyone must be the same as a man). I’m convinced this is a result of our society’s loss of belief in intrinsic human value. If we are all made in the image of God, then we are all equally intrinsically valuable, regardless of our traits and natural abilities. This means we can recognize and embrace our differences without fearing any loss of dignity and value. But if we deny intrinsic value, if we believe our value comes from the characteristics we express, then how will we argue that men and woman are equally valuable? The only way to get to equality, on that view, is to deny all differences.
And that is what our culture has been feverishly doing for a while now. The denial of differences doesn’t reflect reality, and it leads to a loss of appreciation for the diverse male and female traits, squeezing everyone into the same mold, but it’s the only bulwark against inequality of value a godless society can offer.
Human life begins in bright flash of light as a sperm meets an egg, scientists have shown for the first time, after capturing the astonishing ‘fireworks’ on film.
An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception.
Scientists had seen the phenomenon occur in other animals but it is the first time is has been also shown to happen in humans.
As I’ve explained before, as much as people say they deny the fact that life begins at conception, there really is no scientific controversy over when human life begins; the controversy is over when human life is valuable. Unfortunately, when people use the word “life” in this context to mean only what they consider to be valuable human life, they quietly smuggle this crucial distinction out of their claim via the misuse of language, thereby covering up the claim they’re really making—that is, the claim that some human life isn’t valuable.
I’m convinced there are many people who don’t realize they’re doing this—better to convince yourself there really is no human life at conception than to recognize it and then have to justify killing that human life. I don’t think people want to admit the distasteful truth to themselves that they’re dividing human beings into two groups: those whose lives we respect and those we don’t (a move that has never ended well for human rights—see here, here, and here for more on this). This article at least blows the smoke away from the issue.
In truth, though, the article is bad news. Listen to how they intend to use this information:
Researchers from Northwestern University, in Chicago, noticed that some of the eggs burn brighter than others, showing that they are more likely to produce a healthy baby.
The discovery could help fertility doctors pick the best fertilised eggs to transfer during in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
In other words, they’re planning to use this knowledge to aid in their eugenics (see here and here for more on the eugenics of our day)—creating many new human lives (as the science editor above affirms) and then implanting those that display the brightest light while disposing of the rest.